Johannesburg - Stocks have edged to their sixth straight 10-month high on Wednesday as some miners jumped on the softer rand and after a possible supply threat buoyed platinum prices.
The JSE Top-40 index of blue-chip stocks inched up 0.33 percent to 22 477.12 points, the sixth consecutive day of gains which took the index to its highest level since September 25. The all-share index added 0.29% to 24 908.79 points.
At 17:40 the rand traded 1.2% softer at 7.9515 against the dollar compared with Tuesday's close at 7.8575. The rand touched a session low of 7.9895 earlier, its weakest level in more than two weeks, Reuters data showed.
"I think it's just macro-sentiment over the South African economy; that it's not picking up as speedily as the global economy is," said RMB trader Brigid Taylor.
South Africa's economy fell into recession in the first quarter of this year as weak domestic and external demand sas record contractions in the key mining and manufacturing sectors.
Data on Tuesday showed new vehicle sales in the automotive industry, one of the biggest in the manufacturing sector and a key employer, fell by 25.9% year-on-year in July.
"Certainly we've seen some continued negativity out of South African data. Sentiment is a little bit more negative than it was prior to the last couple of weeks (and) whilst we remain below that 8.20 level we are still looking for lower (weaker) levels for the rand," said Taylor.
Traders said the rand did not respond specifically to news that South Africa's biggest union plans to strike at power firm Eskom next week after rejecting a wage offer, raising the threat of electricity disruptions, with one trader saying:
"I don't think it has really had an impact"
Anglo Platinum was one of the biggest gainers on the bourse, up 4.7% to R617.90 after worries that the possible power sector strike could disrupt supply in major producer South Africa pushed the metal to multi-month highs.
Other commodity shares also strode higher, amid persistent hopes the global economy is starting to recover, although a weaker start on Wall Street curbed earlier gains. Kumba Iron Ore traded 2.95% higher to R226.50 and bourse heavyweight Anglo American rose 3.09%.
"The momentum is just amazing," said Ferdi Heyneke of Afrifocus Securities. "It's being driven by resources and the rand-hedge stocks, partly on a slightly weaker rand and on strong dollar metal prices."
Elsewhere, insurer Old Mutual's Johannesburg-listed stock marched up 2.56% to R12.80 as investors shrugged off a bigger than expected profit drop to focus on an improvement at its US life business.
Hard-hit building firms and property company Liberty International also rose on hopes they will benefit from an expected economic recovery.
"Investors realise that the recession might not be as bad as previously expected and the recovery might be soon, and this bodes well for construction firms," a trader said.
Africa's biggest construction firm Murray & Roberts gained 3.3%, Aveng increased 3.79%, WBHO jumped 4.42%. Liberty, Britain's biggest mall owner, raced up 6.59% to R62.25.
South Africa's No. 4 bank Nedbank bucked the trend, sliding 2.8% to R106.95 after it slashed its 2009 outlook after reporting a slide in interim profit as bad debts surged at its corporate and retail units.
Government bonds fell alongside the rand, and yields advanced, with the 2015 bond yield up 9 basis points at 8.54%, while that for the 2036 note jumped 10 basis points to 8.57%.